Friday, October 23, 2020

Día de los Muertos - 2020

Hernandez - Ramos Altar 2020 (WIP)

When Flo Hernandez Ramos, around 1984, assisted in the organization of a public display of folkloric muertos, skulls, and figurines, and constructed her first altar at home for Día de los Muertos, and then continued that tradition at radio station KUVO, she was among a handful of Denverites who celebrated the holiday and respected its cultural importance. She understood that Día de los Muertos was not the “Mexican Halloween,” and that the specific traditions connected to the holiday, such as altars, ofrendas, and pan de muerto, not only honored ancestors and the recently departed, but that they also represented a strong and vibrant connection to the indigenous roots of all people who claim Mexican heritage.

A lot has changed since then, and today “day of the dead” is omnipresent. Every fall, alongside the Halloween costumes and bowls of candy, we are surrounded by sugar skulls, greeting cards, movies, masks, face paintings, and, until Covid-19 restrictions, day-of-the-dead theme parties. At one extreme is the news that the Día de Muertos Barbie doll has been released in a second edition for 2020. Truly, the times have changed. 

I don’t necessarily begrudge the acceptance and assimilation of Día de los Muertos by the mainstream. I think it’s a positive result in many respects, although the commercialization can get out of hand – that’s what the capitalistic U.S. is all about, sometimes. My reasoning is that those who have even the slightest notion about Día de los Muertos must automatically acknowledge their mortality and humanity, if only for an instant. In these days of the pandemic, wildfires and other climate disasters, racial tensions, government sanctioned violence against people of color, and the circus known as the presidential election, we need something that reminds us that yes, absolutely, we are in this together, whatever “this” happens to be at the current time. The one thing we have in common is the fact that one day we all will be eligible for a space on the day-of-the-dead altar. Pick your altar photo now. How do you want to be remembered?

We are surrounded by relentless news of Covid deaths and hospitalizations. We’re choking on smoke and ashes, isolating ourselves from human contact, and confronting unemployment, closed schools, and universal dread. But the obvious contradiction can't be ignored. We also hear of amazing sacrifice and unbelievable courage. Heroes confront the virus and risk their own health. They rush into burning forests to save strangers’ houses. They take a stand against racism and police brutality, hand out dinners at food banks, comfort the anxious teenager, read to the bedridden grandmother.

In this year of so much death and sadness, Día de los Muertos is what some of us unexpectedly need to find our footing, to get grounded again, whether it’s done with a traditional visit to a cemetery or a family movie night to watch Coco

Día de los Muertos is really about the living.


Susan Froyd of Westword wrote about some of the Día de los Muertos events happening in the Denver area in her article Seventeen Ways to Celebrate Dia de Los Muertos, which you can read at this link. Check out the article and you will find something just for you.

Here are two of the many events.

Panel on Colorado's History of Día de Los Muertos
Saturday, Oct. 31, 6-7pm
The LCAC & CHAC Virtual Presentation
Join us to learn how the ancient traditions of Día de Los Muertos took root in Denver by the people that planted the seeds. 
Moderator: Alfredo Reyes
Panelists: Flo Hernandez-Ramos, David Atekpatzin Young, and Stevon Lucero​​​

Ofrendas at Home
The ofrendas, or offerings upon an altar, are the centerpiece of this sacred celebration because they are what guide the spirits of ancestors back to their living relatives. They may include photographs, foods, flowers, candles, decorations, and other sacred elements that our loved ones enjoyed in life. As such, the LCAC is putting together a series of unique altar-kits. They include original handmade contributions of four Denver artists: Ana Marina Sanchez (Jeweler), Victor Escobedo (mixed-media), Lilian Lara (mixed-media), Cal Duran (sculptor), and artisans from Mexico and Peru. These altar-kits are meant to be taken home and personalized according to your familial legacies as a form of remembrance and healing.

Our aim is to build healthier and more resilient communities, so for every two that are acquired through donations, one will be gifted to a family or individual.

Altar-kits can be picked up October 16th through October 29th at Hijos del Sol, 2715 W. 8th Avenue, from 11am-4pm or by appointment by contacting us at or by calling Joyce Sanchez, LCAC Program Coordinator, at 303-946-8873.



Manuel Ramos has completed his eleventh novel -- Angels in the Wind. Watch for it in May, 2021.

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